Max Pearce, “Apotheosis” (2022)
A very polished short film, with similarities in themes and plot to the better-known movie “Gattaca”, itself not a great money-maker on first release but growing into a cult film over the years, “Apotheosis” makes the point that it’s not so much what qualities people are born with, but what they do with them and the extent to which they will persevere against obstacles and resistance that make them successful. Even in a future world inhabited by both naturally born and bred humans and genetically engineered humans with enhanced abilities and intelligence, sheer grit can still win against being favoured with superior qualities. Young aerospace engineer Selene (Rene Leech) decides to try out for a job position on the first habitable space colony, a private enterprise begun by the Rusk Corporation, after her mother Minerva (Jane Casserly) loses her job as a cyber-designer. Selene is pitted against her friend Fabrizio (Dor Gvirtsman), the genetically engineered son of the corporation’s founder (Ross Turner) in a series of tests of their physical and intellectual abilities. She passes one test and fails another, though her achievements are outstanding for a natural human, but Fabrizio’s father allows her to pass. The father’s decision leads to a fall out between Selene and Fabrizio.
Both Selene and Fabrizio are then required to undertake a third test together, this being a simulation test of a real situation in space in which they must work together and rely on their own physical, mental and emotional resources and stamina as well. Anyone who passes out during the test is disqualified and if one of them fails on another criterion of the test, they both will fail.
The plot is straightforward without giving away too much as to who will fail or succeed in the third test. A brief subplot comes halfway through the film when Minerva tries to give Selene a leg up with a concealed gadget, but this quickly gets quashed when Fabrizio and Selene fight briefly while on their way to the simulation test room and the gadget is crushed. There is enough in the way of quick edits and close-up shots to enable some character development on Selene’s part. I did think Leech did not look the part against Gvirtsman’s Fabrizio but she does carry her role very well.
The film does play like a stripped-down version of an epic Hollywood hard science fiction flick with an emphasis on grit and perseverance over inborn qualities, with the music soundtrack and fast filming techniques typical of action thriller films and sequences. The transition from climax to denouement is done smoothly and quickly in a breathtaking visual sequence that (spoiler alert) carries the emotion of Selene’s triumph right through to the end.
Other themes such as family loyalty and the depths of parent-child relationships, and class warfare are present and flavour the rivalry of Selene and Fabrizio.